Intergroup Contact and Mental Health Stigma: A Comparative Effectiveness Meta-Analysis

Maunder, R. (University of Sydney), White, F. (University of Sydney)

Mental health stigma has a myriad of detrimental effects on people with mental illness, as well as their friends and family. Intergroup contact interventions appear to be the most effective strategy for reducing mental health stigma, but there is considerable methodological heterogeneity among studies. Currently, it is unclear whether certain characteristics improve the effectiveness of the intervention and whether contact improves behaviour and implicit bias as well as attitudes and intentions. This meta-analysis retrieved 101 published and unpublished studies from 5 databases, representing 24 countries and over fifteen thousand participants. The effect of contact on stigma was significant immediately post-intervention (k = 90, n = 15,826, d = -0.384), in the short-term (k = 33, n = 3,697, d = -0.334) and in the medium-term (k = 7, n = 842, d = -0.526). The effectiveness of the intervention did not significantly differ between contact-based education and pure contact, different contact mediums, or the mental illness of the outgroup member. While contact reduced self-reported stigma, there was less evidence for it improving actual behaviour and implicit bias. The implications of these results for anti-stigma initiatives will be discussed, as well as suggestions for future research in this area.

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Overcoming Barriers to Intergroup Contact Symposium